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Girish K. Panicker, Frank B. Matta, and Patrick D. Gerard

Air temperature on crop productivity is a complex topic in environmental physiology. Blueberry growers in the Southeastern United States experience major crop losses due to late spring frosts. A 2-year study was conducted on `Tifblue' rabbiteye blueberry flower flushes to determine the effect of abscisic acid (ABA) at 0, 20, 40, and 60 mg·L–1 and paclobutrazol at 0, 100, 200, and 300 mg·L–1 on cold hardiness of floral parts. Two types of flower flushes were identified in `Tifblue'. Critical freezing temperatures and the effectiveness of the treatments were determined by differential thermal analysis (DTA), electrolyte leakage (EL), oxidative browning and tetrazolium staining. Floral parts frozen to –40 °C produced only one exotherm, confirming that rabbiteye floral parts do not supercool. Both growth regulators were more efective in the induction of hardiness in floral parts at second flush than at first flush. Floral parts developed in April were more prone to freezing injury than the floral parts of March. Ovaries were the hardiest, followed by calyx, stamen, style, and corolla. Air temperature had a profound influence on cold hardiness as influenced by ABA and paclobutrazol. The sequence of exotherms of DTA and the LT50 of the viability tests were air temperature-dependent.

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Kent E. Cushman, Muhammad Maqbool, and Patrick D. Gerard

American mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum L.) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial found in wooded areas of eastern North America and is a source of the pharmaceutical compound podophyllotoxin. To explore the possible domestication of this species, this research examined strategies for establishing mayapple in field plantings using organic mulches. Mayapple rhizome segments were harvested from the wild and transplanted to raised beds in northern Mississippi in Fall 2001. Two types of mulch (pine bark or wheat straw), two depths of mulch (7.5 or 15 cm), and two planting depths (0 or 5 cm) of rhizome segments were examined in a factorial arrangement and randomized complete block design. Data were recorded during spring of 2002 and 2003. Shoot number was not affected by mulch depth, but there was a significant interaction between mulch type and rhizome planting depth. Rhizome segments planted 0 cm deep and covered with straw mulch produced about 30% fewer shoots compared to any of the other treatment combinations. Number of emerging shoots was also affected by year, with a 33% increase in shoots from 2002 to 2003. Total leaf area and total leaf dry weight were not affected by mulch depth, but there was a significant three-way interaction between mulch type, rhizome planting depth, and year. During 2002, treatment combinations were not different, but during 2003 rhizome segments planted 0 cm deep and covered with straw mulch produced less leaf area and leaf dry weight than any of the other treatment combinations. The ratio of sexual shoots to total shoots was affected by year, with a higher ratio of sexual shoots occurring in 2002 than 2003. Grasses established in bark mulch to a greater extent than in straw mulch in 2002, but weed control was excellent for all treatments in 2003. These results indicate that rhizome segments planted 0 cm deep and covered with straw mulch consistently produced fewer shoots with less leaf area and dry mass compared to any other treatment combination. We preferred bark mulch, but we can recommend either bark or straw mulch for the purpose of establishing field plantings of american mayapple in full sun as long as rhizome planting depth is 5 cm. There was no difference between the two mulching depths used in this study; therefore, a mulch depth of 7.5 cm can be recommended because of its lower cost.

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Kent E. Cushman, Rita M. Moraes, Patrick D. Gerard, Ebru Bedir, Bladimiro Silva, and Ikhlas A. Khan

Leaves of American mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) are being investigated as an alternative and renewable source of podophyllotoxin, a pharmaceutical compound used in the manufacture of several drugs. This study examined long-term performance of mayapple populations subjected to different harvest strategies. A naturally occurring population in shade was subjected to leaf removal treatments of frequency (every year, every 2nd or 3rd year) or timing (early or late season). Plots were 1.0 m2, established during Spring 2001, and treatments were applied from 2001 to 2004. Control plots not previously harvested were also included each year. Plants did not tolerate the severest of leaf removal treatments: early harvest time in combination with annual harvest frequency. Early annual harvests reduced total leaf dry mass and total leaf area in a quadratic manner. Late harvest conducted annually, and early harvest conducted every other year, also reduced leaf dry mass and area but not as much as early annual harvest. Plants harvested every year, early, or early every year produced fewer sexual shoots than other treatment combinations. Contents of α-peltatin, β-peltatin, and total lignans were higher for leaves harvested early than those harvested late during each year of the study, demonstrating that lignan contents were affected by leaf age and not treatment. In conclusion, our results for plants grown in shade show that leaves can be removed late in the growing season every 2nd or 3rd year or early every 3rd year without reducing long-term performance of the population. This is more restrictive than that reported for populations in full sun where plants tolerated late harvests every year.

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Muhammad Maqbool, Kent E. Cushman, Rita M. Moraes, and Patrick D. Gerard

American mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum L.) is a rhizomatous, herbaceous perennial found in wooded areas of eastern North America and is a source of the pharmaceutical compound podophyllotoxin. This research was conducted to determine the optimum duration of low temperature exposure in overcoming dormancy of fall-harvested rhizome segments for subsequent use as propagules in greenhouse plantings. Two types of rhizome segments were harvested from the wild and used in this study: two-node rhizome segments consisting of a terminal node and its adjacent one-year-old node and one-node rhizome segments consisting of a single node, other than a terminal node, of unknown age or rhizome position. For growth cycle I, rhizome segments were exposed to low temperature (≈4 °C) for 30, 45, 60, 75, or 90 days, planted in pots, and grown in a greenhouse set at 21 °C. Shoot emergence, shoots per pot, and plant height were recorded. Leaves were removed from plants when senescence first became evident, and leaf area was recorded. For growth cycle II, rhizome segments remained undisturbed in the original pots and were exposed to low temperatures (≈4 °C) for 90 days. Pots were again placed in the greenhouse and shoot emergence, shoots per pot, plant height, and leaf area were recorded. Increasing duration of low temperature exposure of rhizome segments up to 75 days appeared to increase percent emergence and plant height and decrease days to emergence, though changes in greenhouse conditions over the study period may have also influenced shoot emergence and plant growth. Two-node rhizome segments exhibited higher percent shoot emergence, shoot longevity, leaf area, and plant height than single-node segments during each growth cycle. Two-node rhizome segments also exhibited fewer days to emergence during growth cycle I. Rhizome segments produced no more than a single shoot in growth cycle I, whereas more than one shoot was produced in growth cycle II. Most of the effects of low temperature exposure during growth cycle I persisted throughout growth cycle II. These results indicate that dormancy of mayapple rhizomes can be overcome with low temperature exposure and shoots can be induced to grow at any time of year.

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Kent E. Cushman, Thomas E. Horgan, David H. Nagel, and Patrick D. Gerard

Pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo, C. moshata) were grown in northern Mississippi during 2000 and 2001 for the purpose of more narrowly defining plant population recommendations for commercial production in the humid southeastern United States. Four plant populations were examined for `Aspen': 908, 1361, 2045, and 3068 plants/acre (2244, 3363, 5053, and 7581 plants/ha, respectively) and for `Howden Biggie': 605, 908, 1361, and 2045 plants/acre (1495, 2244, 3363, 5053 plants/ha, respectively). Plant populations were adjusted by varying in-row spacing while holding between-row spacing constant at 8 ft (2.4 m). Plant population significantly affected yield of `Aspen' and `Howden Biggie'. Linear and quadratic terms were significant for `Aspen', with maximum yield (ton/acre and fruit/acre) for the quadratic relationship occurring at about 2045 plants/acre. In contrast, yield of `Howden Biggie' decreased significantly (ton/acre) and nonsignificantly (fruit/acre) in a linear relationship as plant population increased from 605 to 2045 plants/acre. Plant population significantly affected fruit weight and size. As plant population increased, weight and size decreased slightly but significantly in a linear relationship for `Aspen' (lb/fruit and inch3/fruit) and `Howden Biggie' (lb/fruit). The quadratic relationship for `Howden Biggie' (inch3/fruit) was significant and the minimum value occurred at about 1361 plants/acre. Plant population significantly affected pumpkin yield components associated with plant productivity. As plant population increased, number and weight of fruit per plant decreased sharply in a quadratic relationship for `Aspen' (lb/ plant and fruit/plant) and `Howden Biggie' (lb/plant). The linear relationship for `Howden Biggie' (fruit/ plant) also decreased significantly. At the highest plant populations for `Howden Biggie', 40% of the plants did not produce marketable pumpkins. In conclusion, recommendations of optimum plant populations for a semi-vining cultivar such as `Aspen' should be centered on about 2045 plants/acre. Published recommendations from Kentucky appear sound, advocating plant populations within the range of 1360 to 2720 plants/acre (3361 to 6721 plants/ha). For a vining cultivar such as `Howden Biggie', recommendations can be as low as 605 plants/acre. Published recommendations from Kentucky and Georgia, along with those published in the Vegetable Crop Guidelines for the Southeastern U.S., advocate plant populations for vining cultivars of approximately 725 to 1465 plants/acre (1790–3620 plants/ha). Our results with `Howden Biggie', a cultivar that produces larger pumpkins than most other vining cultivars grown for the wholesale market, indicate that producers of vining cultivars should use plant populations from the lowest values of these recommendations or use even lower values. Our results also indicate that growers can control size and weight of pumpkins by varying plant population, with increasing populations resulting in a slight decrease of size and weight.

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Kent E. Cushman, Richard G. Snyder, David H. Nagel, and Patrick D. Gerard

Evaluations of 21 entries (commercial cultivars and breeders' experimental hybrids) of triploid watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) were conducted in northern and central Mississippi during 2000 and 2001. The purpose of this research was to identify high-yielding, medium-sized triploid cultivars with good horticultural characteristics and consumer qualities for commercial production in Mississippi. Most entries were similar to `Tri-X 313' and had red flesh, oval shape, and a mottle stripe rind pattern. SXW 5052, `Triple Crown,' `Crimson Trio,' `SeedWay 4502,' and `Millionaire' produced the highest total marketable yields; however, SXW 5052 is no longer available. `Crimson Trio' produced slightly smaller-sized melons compared to other entries and `SeedWay 4502' produced melons with relatively low soluble solids concentration. Based on total marketable yield, average size of melons, soluble solids concentration, and lack of undesirable characteristics such as hollowheart, black and colored seed, and rind necrosis, `Triple Crown,' `Millionaire,' `Cooperstown,' `Summer Sweet 5244,' and `Crimson Trio' can be recommended as mid- to late-maturing cultivars for commercial production in Mississippi. Based on early marketable yield, and using the same criteria listed above, `Tri-X 313' and `Tri-X Carousel' can be recommended as early-maturing cultivars for commercial production in Mississippi. `Tri-X 313' exhibited only one undesirable trait, producing a relatively high number of black and colored seeds. `Diamond' had high early and total yields, as well as high soluble solids concentration, but it should be recommended only on a trial basis to determine its potential susceptibility to hollowheart.

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Kent E. Cushman, William B. Evans, David M. Ingram, Patrick D. Gerard, R. Allen Straw, Craig H. Canaday, Jim E. Wyatt, and Michael M. Kenty

Small- and large-scale farmers must often decide when to begin application of fungicides, either before the onset of disease as a preventative treatment or after disease becomes evident in the field. Growers also must decide about products that claim to enhance fungicide efficacy when added to the spray mixture. A study was conducted during the summer of 2002 to investigate control of foliar diseases of vine crops (Cucurbita spp.) with low-input (LI) or high-input (HI) management approaches and six fungicide/spray combinations at four locations in southeastern United States. Fungicide applications began for LI when leaf disease first became evident and for HI about 20 days after seeding. Both approaches continued applications at 7- to 10-day intervals until harvest. Spray treatments consisted of a water-only control or one of six combinations of azoxystrobin/chlorothalonil alone or in combination with potassium bicarbonate, foliar phosphite (0N–12.2P–21.6K), or foliar nitrogen (25N–0P–0K). Azoxystrobin was applied in rotation with chlorothalonil for all treatments except the control. Seeds of ‘Lil’ Goblin’ pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) were planted July to August and fruit harvested October to November, depending on location. Plants were rated twice for powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca fuliginea and Erysiphe cichoracearum) and downy mildew (Pseudoperonospora cubensis). HI did not significantly increase yield compared with LI. All fungicide treatments significantly increased yield and reduced foliar diseases compared with the water-only control. The simplest of treatments, the azoxystrobin/chlorothalonil rotation without any other chemicals, can be recommended for general use where strobilurin resistance has not been documented.